Spirit of the Wood

I only managed to draw something small this week. It’s a traditional ink drawing with greyscale tones added digitally to the scanned image. I’ve called it the Spirit of the Wood.

It really began as a doodle, while waiting on the phone for 111 to answer. It was done on the back of an envelope! Fortunately I was able to scan it and clean the slight shadows of the envelope structure off the picture.

I was thinking about the idea that places can sometimes, almost, have a personality of their own. At the end of my road there is a big stand of Oak, populated by a family of crows. I’ve heard owl’s calling at night from there and seen bats flying around in the late evening too.

This drawing is a portrait of the spirit of that place.

Yesterday, for the second time, I saw a Red Kite hunting in the sky above that same stand of trees! They have an awesome call which is quite unmistakable. (I had wondered initially if it was just a really big Marsh Harrier at first, but it had the classic V in it’s tail and then I heard it call.) It was going for a pigeon.

Photograph taken by Prosthetic Head  Licence CC BY-SA 4.0

(PS: If you want to hear the Red Kite call, the RSPB has a page here where you can listen to it.)

The Night Watchman – Watercolour

This week I decided to try to paint something quite quickly since I’m still unwell. So I painted this forest scene with no sketching, no planning (except some planning in my head) and three brushes –

  • a hake brush for the background wash (this is a big flat brush which is great for covering big areas).
  • an old mop brush for the undergrowth and bushes (this is a scruffy blobby fat little brush which is great for textures).
  • a rigger for the trees (this is a brush with really long thin soft bristles and is great for drawing lines).

I painted a graded wash for the background going from a French Ultramarine (dulled with a tiny bit of Payne’s Grey) through a Winsor Blue (with a hint of Phalo blue) to Paynes Grey (with a tiny bit of Phalo blue as well.)

Then, once it was dried I added some bushes with dilute paint and gradually worked forward with the undergrowth using darker and more saturated paint as I went.

Once this was dry I painted in the trees, again working from the trees furthest away first using very dilute paint and then working on closer and closer trees with darker more distinct lines. The rigger is such a good brush for this. I love it. It makes them look good without any effort on my part.

Finally I added a Great Horned Owl in one fo the trees and gave him some fierce orange eyes – he is the night watchmen of the picture. It took longer than I expected to finish because I had to dry different layers with a hair dryer and my hair dryer kept on overheating and stopping. Overall it was about 40 minutes. Then I went back to bed.

Here is the final picture…

Season’s Greetings!


Some Christmas Cards painted for this season…


The Winter Owl

The owl one was sketched in pencils and then inked with rapidograph pens on Bristol Board. After that I added some tone with Mars Lumograph pencils and scanned it into my computer.

This is the greyscale drawing…


Then I coloured it digitally.  This is my finished painting…




This was a more tradition Christmas card theme of the shepherds outside Bethlehem.  I started with a gouache background on Amazon shipping cardboard…



Then I inked on the drawing with a Sharpie. Next I painted in some hills and went over the drawing with black and then white gouache paint, giving me a final simple painting like this…



Once it was painted I cut it out and stuck it to a card using carpet tape.  I used this once years ago because I didn’t have any other double sided tape and it worked so brilliantly I’ve used it ever since.


Then it was finally ready to put in it’s envelope…


Later I decided I liked the border around the painting so I made a digital version too.  I like the idea that there’s an original painting on the first card but I also like that it’s my finished image how I wanted it on the second card.


I hope you all have a lovely Christmas holiday!




Watercolour and Ink


Over the weekend I saw a beautiful watercolour of a bird on Reddit posted by V4nG0ghs34r77.

I thought it was beautifully done and I really liked the way the artist had mixed ink and watercolour to great effect.

Often with “Line and Wash” paintings I find myself quite underwhelmed because they seem so often to look twee and sort of chocolate box’y which just doesn’t work for me.  I can’t stand it.  (This is just a personal taste, not because any particular style of art is better than any other.)  But V4nG0ghs34r77 used the ink in ways which gave it depth and texture and it really worked!

So I’ve been playing around with ink and watercolour this week to see what I can make.

I began with a chameleon…

(The chameleon and branch are watercolour and ink but the background was added digitally.)

And then went on to sketch a bit of an owl…


(This is all watercolour and ink – no digital stuff.)

The owl was definitely my favourite.  When I drew and painted it I was really in a place where I was just playing around, not formally painting anything.  I think this really helped because it was just a rough ink sketch with some watercolour dabbed on wherever I thought.  I didn’t use any reference except for a photo for the eyes.  In terms of colour I went with a paynes grey / ultramarine mix against a cadmium yellow / yellow ochre / burnt umber mix. Because they felt like opposites and gave a nice contrast to each other. 

This is the first time I’ve been able to really loosen up when inking and painting.  I kind of treated the whole thing like a sketch.  I am pleased with the results.


Days 96 to 102 – Using art to avert ‘Death by Chrismas Concert’

As the school term goes on (and on) and the staff (and I suspect some of the children) all begin to edge towards ‘Death by Christmas Concert’ syndrome I’m finding myself increasingly tired.  Not just a bit worn-out but bone-achingly, think-my-body-will-seize-up-any-minute tired.  It’s no wonder that, when I hear the introduction to ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ for the eightieth time and try to smile and encourage the children, I find myself losing the will to live.

So this week, art has been a bit of a refuge.  I’ve not had a great deal of time but what I have had I’ve used to do some ink work and then mostly to colour it digitally.

The first drawing began as a serious sketch of a Northern Saw-Whet Owl (which is a massively cute little thing with big big eyes.)  Gradually though it became more of a decorative ink pattern owl.

Here’s the final ink drawing…



Then I coloured it in Manga Studio 5…


At first I naturally tried to colour the leaves green but that added another hue to my colour pallette which I didn’t want so I played around with the colour and finally settled on blue.  The more I look at pictures with limited colour pallettes the more I like them so I’m trying to use this in my colour work.


Then I went on to sketch a butterfly while I waited to collect my son from his after-school session.  This was really just a way to relax…



As this was done mainly waiting in my car I had no computer, only a wet brush, some inks and some watercolour pencils.  I’m not sure I really captured the effect I was going for, where the butterfly brings colour to everything it touches, but it was fun to do.

The last picture I did this week was done quite late at night when I couldn’t sleep.  I recently got a set of Winsor and Newton Brush Markers (instead of Copics as my budget won’t stretch that far).  But I’d not had time to use them for anything, so since I couldn’t sleep and needed to relax I made a quick cartoon sketch of a Mr Fox character…



The markers were great to use although they bled a bit on the Moleskin paper and they blended really well.  (They also ruined the picture on the other side of the page but I was aware of this possiblilty and should really have thought about it and used some Bristol Board.)

I was pleased with the Fox character – I think he looks quite jaunty.

Then the next day I coloured him in Photoshop…



PS:  I wish you all a Happy Christmas!.  I do the artwork for my blog and write it up a few weeks in advance and then schedule it, so this work was done near the beginning of December when we were rehearsing like mad for the school Christmas performances.  It’s quite nice to think that by the time this blog is published I shall be sitting in my cosy living room with a cup of coco and my feet up!

Days 83 to 89 – Kyoto, Keys, Water and Watercolour

I began this week with another ink sketch on white paper.  Again I tried to work without making any pencil marks beforehand.  This time I chose a landscape as my subject rather than a person.  I found this harder as I had to think about perspective but couldn’t draw any guidelines.  It was challenging but was a good exercise.  It took about 20 minutes in all.  The sketch is of a famous street view in the Japanese city of Kyoto.  It’s somewhere I’d love to go one day.

Here’s the sketch…


Later in the week there was a night when I couldn’t sleep as my pain condition was causing me problems so I began to sketch some water droplets.  Previously that evening I’d watched a beautiful YouTube video by an artist called   ‘LethalChris Drawing’ who made an Inktober Sketchbook this year.  In it he had a lovely picture of some waterdroplets on a leaf.  Working from what I could remember from the video I sketched some water of my own using a worn out felt tip.  I was really surprised at how many line variations I could get with a pen I would normally throw out.  It wasn’t even a pen for writing on paper, but for putting names into my son’s school uniform from years ago.

So here’s Chris’ YouTube video (the waterdroplet is at approximately 11min 46 seconds)…

And here’s my sketch done with nothing but a worn out felt tip…


The following day I tried a more detailed ink sketch, again without any pencil lines beforehand.  This turned out to be the best one I’ve done.  It was based on a scene I had seen in a beautiful anime film called “5cm Per Second”.  (Wiki article here)

In the film our protagonist drops his keys in a lift.  The animators drew some beautiful keys with reflections and shadows.  It really blew me away – I loved it.  The whole film was wonderful.  So I watched that part a few times and then tried to draw the keys.  Here’s the final result of my drawing…


It’s nowhere near as good a picture as the original from the animation team at CoMix Wave Inc, but it does serve as a reminder of that lovely image.

Then I spent the rest of the week drawing 4 quick ink drawings (again with no pencil preparation) and then colouring them in different ways.  I am trying to find a way to use watercolour with ink drawings.  Here are the four images I made…


I like the deep colour gradients in the top left one and the watercolour wet in wet background in the bottom right best.

I find, for me, the bottom left picture is too fussy and the top right is kind of ruined by using greyscale water-based markers under the paint – they don’t give a clean finish – I’d have done better to darken the aquamarine directly I think.  Also, I used only flat colour here and it kind of shows.  I think using analogous colours together for each wash works much better and gives things a more lively look.

So that was the art I worked on this week.     🙂

Practicing Shadow Colours…

I did a quick exercise on shadow colours today.  I used red, yellow, green, blue, purple and pink and then worked out how to make a suitable shadow colour for each.  Rather than just painting blocks of colour I make it into a little owl.

SHadow Colour Exercise

Here’s a table of how I made my shadow colours:

shadow colour tableIt worked reasonably well.  I found that, with the yellow shadow, I needed to use blue as much as purple to reduce the saturation.  I think this is because the darker shade of yellow is a brown and this has some red in it so having blue in the mix counteracts the red.

The bit that worked teh best is in the greens:

Saturation and tone diagram

I can see in this one that the midtones have a higher saturation than the darker tones – this is what I’m trying to do.

I’m going to do one more shadow colour exercise tomorrow and then I think I’ll have cracked it in terms of understanding how it works.  I’ll still have a long way to go with actually putting this into practice, but at least I will know what I’m aiming for.


Owlets and Shadows – Part 1 of 2

Finally I’ve understood the lesson from my painting book on shadows – the penny has dropped!



I decided to sketch a couple of owlets (baby owls) just coming into their adult colours but still a bit fluffy and ragged – on account of their awesome cuteness!

I’m posting one of these today and the next on Monday.


Then I painted very simply with watercolour what is called ‘local colour’ which is the colour of something without any effects of lighting or reflection or shadow.  (Actually with no light all local colour would simply be black.  What is really meant here is the colour of something in steady, medium, all-around lighting.)


Now I failed at this a bit because my green paint flowed downwards and rather than correct it I decided to use that for shadow.  Also, because I’m working in watercolour and can’t add highlight afterwards I had to think about that with my owlet and his branch too.  So, not perfect but OK.

Now the rule I’ve been trying to understand is that to darken an object (so the ground for a cast shadow or the dark side of something for a body shadow) you do two things   – (1) you choose a darker shade of the same colour (e.g. paynes grey, to me looks like a darker shade of phthalo blue) and then (2) you add a bit of the complimentary colour (which is the colour on the opposite side of the colour wheel).


Now it’s part (2) which I have been having trouble with so I decided to use just that effect for this little A6 painting to see what it does for myself.

Here, I came upon another difficulty, brown isn’t a primary or secondary colour.  In colour theory it’s regarded as a ‘warm neutral‘.  According to a colour theory called ‘Munsell Colour Theory’ (which I know nothing about except what I read on the internet today) neutrals are regarded as a less bright version of a primary or secondary colour.  So I looked at the brown on my owlet and decided that it’s a less bright version of the secondary colour orange.  The opposite of orange is blue.  So I used blue as my complementary colour.  I added just this for the shadows – just to see what effect it has.


So here is my little owlet dude with just the complementary colour used for a shadow.  So now I can see what adding this colour to my shadow colour does – it dims the colour -it makes the colour more grey and pasty.


So my instructions for mixing shadow colours could them be written as:

(1) you choose a darker shade of the same colour

(2) you reduce the strength of the colour by adding a bit of the complimentary colour

So now I understand what this step is doing I’m going to paint some more owlets and put the whole shadow-colour-mixing-plan into action!  I’ll post that on Monday.    Have  a great weekend!  🙂